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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 08/21/13
Macomb County mulls
over stopping DIA tax
by CHRIS GRAYMacomb County may join the neighboring county of Oakland in suspending a millage to support the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) if art is sold.
Observer Staff Writer
As the City of Detroit works through the municipal bankruptcy process, officials are considering the sales of art from the DIA's collection as a way of resolving debt.
Oakland County officials are preparing to examine a plan that would discontinue the 0.2 millage if Detroit decides artwork will be liquidated. The millage, approved by voters in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties last year, brings in $23 million annually.
Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said his offices have the same stance as Oakland County, saying it would look into discontinuing the millage or payments should the art be sold.
"I don't think anybody would disagree that there shouldn't be a collection of taxes to support the actual art if they're not going to exist there or going to be sold," he said.
He said his offices, along with the Macomb County Art Institute Authority, are monitoring what Detroit will do with the artwork before taking any action.
Hackel believes conversations regarding the issue have caused hesitation on behalf of Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr or Governor Rick Snyder, saying the millage conversations may have made them realize this is a passionate issue for people.
"I think because of all the attention they're real reluctant to say `yeah, let's just sell the art,'" he said. "They have to understand where we're coming from because we're a pretty strong voice."
Of the $23 million, Macomb County contributes $5 million, while Oakland County turns over $10 million. Wayne County collects $8 million.
The DIA has agreed that the voter-approved millage would discontinue if the City of Detroit decided to sell art to pay its debts. Graham Beal, DIA director, said a discontinued millage would essentially close the museum.
"As we were saying before the millage passed . . . we were looking at a kind of controlled shutdown," he said.
Beal said the latest information is that the appraisers are asking that all the artwork with the credit line "City of Detroit purchase" will be evaluated. Christie's Appraisals out of New York has been hired to appraise the city-owned art in the DIA. The company stated in an Aug. 5 press release that it will also assist and advise on how to realize value for the city while leaving art in its ownership.
The DIA, upon learning about the appraisal, stated in an Aug. 5 release that it will cooperate in the process. The release states the DIA doesn't believe the appraisal is necessary due to the art being held in a charitable trust, meaning it cannot be sold as part of a bankruptcy proceeding.
Beal said Orr has stated in the past he doesn't wish to liquidate irreplaceable assets, and believes the DIA will fall into that category.
"We, of course, are thinking of what might happen and what we might need to do, but we're passive," he said. "We have to wait to see what happens most of the time, and of course we're hoping that nothing happens."
He added the DIA itself doesn't look at works of art from a financial point of view, nor is it allowed to do so based on professional conduct.
"From our point of view they are, in a way, literally priceless," Beal said.